Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch started his business from his kitchen with the recipe for Samuel Adams Lager. Now, he’s working to help other aspiring entrepreneurs, with the second annual Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room competition. On Thursday, nine food and beverage entrepreneurs will compete for $10,000 in funding and a year of free mentoring from Koch and other Boston Beer Co. senior executives. Each team will get two minutes to pitch their business and convince the judges. Koch said last year’s competition was an undeniable success – and he’s looking to give other entrepreneurs the same leg up. The 2013 winners were siblings Daniel and Rebecca Dengrove, whose company Brewlas make healthy ice pops with brewed flavors. According to Boston Beer Co., Brewla has increased sales by nearly 50% a month since June. “It helps the businesses who are involved get to the next level,” Koch explained. Recently, the Brewla team pitched Wal-Mart executives and got authorization to sell in 600 Walmart stores. This Year’s Competitors The nine businesses competing this year are Coffeecake Connection from West Chicago, Ill.; Torti Products from Highland, Ind..; Flapjacked from Broomfield, Colo.; Noble Savage from Wheat Ridge, Colo.; Joos from Newton, Mass.; HotPot Coffee from Chathan, N.H.; Caputo Brothers Creamery from Spring Grove, Pa.; and Wandering Bear Coffee from New York, N.Y. Christine Welch, founder of Coffeecake Connection, focuses on gluten-free baked goods like cookies, brownies and ready-to-bake batter, in addition to her namesake coffeecakes. Welch said the $10,000 would help her pay down some business loans – but the mentoring would likely be even more valuable to her. “We’re planning to announce a name change and rebrand … Mentoring would make sure I’m on the right track,” Welch said. She added that she’d also be looking for help with some of Coffeecake Connection’s distribution challenges. Another competitor, Joos’ Chief Joos Officer Laurie Meizler, said winning the competition “means everything to me.” The 6-year-old Joos makes cold-pressed juices and vegan baked goods. “To say we’re connected to Sam Adams would be phenomenal and would help people take us more seriously,” Meizler said. Joos is profitable and doing seven figures in sales annually, but Meizler said the mentoring and the funding would help the company grow even faster. “It would provide me with resources that are very hard to attain as a small business and help me with a down payment for another hydraulic press, which we need badly,” Meizler said. She is hopeful that winning the competition would also make the fundraising process easier. “We’re bootstrapped almost entirely … It would give me greater credibility to go to investors or banks because we won this,” Meizler added. The Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room competition is happening Thursday evening at the Centre for Social Innovation in New York City.
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